“If I could get a memo onto President Biden’s desk about the new Israeli government, I know exactly how it would start:
Dear Mr. President, I don’t know if you are interested in Jewish history, but Jewish history is certainly interested in you today. Israel is on the verge of a historic transformation — from a full-fledged democracy to something less, and from a stabilizing force in the region to a destabilizing one. You may be the only one able to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist coalition from turning Israel into an illiberal bastion of zealotry.
I’d also tell Biden that I fear that Israel is approaching some serious internal civil strife. Civil conflicts are rarely about one policy. They tend to be about power. For years, the fierce debates in Israel about the Oslo Accords were about policy. But today, this simmering clash is about power — who can tell whom how to live in a highly diverse society.
The short story: An ultranationalist, ultra-Orthodox government, formed after the Netanyahu camp won election by the tiniest sliver of votes (roughly 30,000 out of some 4.7 million), is driving a power grab that the other half of voters view not only as corrupt but also as threatening their own civil rights. That’s why a 5,000-person anti-government demonstration grew to 80,000 over the weekend.”
Mr. Cohen and Mr. Greenfield founded Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Holdings in 1978.
“We are the founders of Ben & Jerry’s. We are also proud Jews. It’s part of who we are and how we’ve identified ourselves for our whole lives. As our company began to expand internationally, Israel was one of our first overseas markets. We were then, and remain today, supporters of the State of Israel.
But it’s possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies, just as we’ve opposed policies of the U.S. government. As such, we unequivocally support the decision of the company to end business in the occupied territories, which a majority of the international community, including the United Nations, has deemed an illegal occupation.”
“Since Iran and the U.S. held more talks this week to try to revive their nuclear deal, with some progress reported, I want to share my views on this subject: I supported the original deal negotiated by Barack Obama in 2015. I did not support Donald Trump’s tearing it up in 2018, but when he did I hoped that he’d leverage the economic pain he inflicted to persuade Iran to improve the deal. Trump failed at that, leaving Iran free to get closer than ever to a bomb. I support Joe Biden trying to revive the deal. And I support Israel’s covert efforts to sabotage Iran’s ability to ever build a nuclear weapon — no matter what the deal.
If that sounds contradictory, it’s because, well, it just sounds that way. There is a unifying thread running through it all: Dealing effectively with Iran’s Islamic regime — in a way that permanently eliminates its malign behavior — is impossible.” . . .
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
First response. I’m a bit lost. I like Tom Friedman’s brutal honesty, but I despise the Syrian Shiite regime of Assad. The Iranians will probably run out of water in the next 50 years, according to a major Virgina military think tank, so we could just wait out this group of old mullahs. What else could we do? Maybe, apologize to the Iranians for overthowing their leftist democracy 70 years ago, and essentially let them have the nuclear bomb they crave. Offer Israel nuclear protection. If Iran or one of its neighbors destroys Israel, with one lousy nuke, we will destroy the attacker, with as many nukes as it takes to destroy their goverment. Another idea, take out Assad, and destroy his regime, and put in its place our allies, the Sunnis to the north he has been fighting in that brual civil war. Maybe instead, we have to recongnize our inability to manage these foreign interventions well, and focus on our own, serious domestic problems. But supporting the butcher Assad doesn’t excite me. Destroying him, we might accidentally destroy the Russians fighting in Syria, sending a message to Putin about our feelings towards unlimited cyber ransomware attacks. Whatever we do, or don’t do, follow Sun Tsu’s dictum, if you are not smart enough or patient enough to avoid war, get in and get out, do not stick around. Patience might be best.
“TEL AVIV — The first meetings of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority back in 2007 were very emotional.
Each of us — I, as Israel’s chief negotiator, and Ahmed Qurei, known as Abu Ala, the former Palestinian prime minister — tried to convince the other who has more rights to the land: the Jewish people or the Palestinians.
Unsurprisingly, we left these sessions frustrated and unconvinced. After two such meetings, we agreed that these discussions would lead us nowhere and that any peace agreement would not determine which narrative prevailed, and instead we should focus only on how to establish a peaceful future.
The argument over historical narratives hasn’t changed. It won’t. Those on both sides that insist on forcing their narrative on the other side, or turning the conflict into a religious war, cannot make the compromises needed for peace. This is true also for those from the international community supporting one side and denying the rights of the other. This is destructive and only strengthens extremists.
Peace based on the vision of two states for two peoples gives an answer to the national aspirations of both the Jewish people and the Palestinians and requires compromises by both.
The solution of a Jewish state and an Arab state has actually existed for some 75 years. It was laid out by the United Nations in 1947 as a just solution to the conflict between Jews (including my own parents) and Arabs who already lived between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. . . . “
“. . . Therefore, I hope that when the secretary of state, Tony Blinken, meets with Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week, he conveys a very clear message: “From this day forward, we will be treating the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank as a Palestinian state in the making, and we will be taking a series of diplomatic steps to concretize Palestinian statehood in order to preserve the viability of a two-state solution. We respect both of your concerns, but we are determined to move forward because the preservation of a two-state solution now is not only about yournational security interests; it is about our national security interests in the Middle East. And it is about the political future of the centrist faction of the Democratic Party. So we all need to get this right.’’
For starters, Biden should reshape U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian relations by opening a diplomatic mission to the P.A. — as the nascent Palestinian state government — near its headquarters in Ramallah. At the same time, he should invite the P.A. to send a diplomatic representative to Washington as the would-be ambassador of a future Palestinian state. . . . “
David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Thomas Friedman. Sounds like a plan, and it just might, help starve the beast, which would be Hamas for the Palestinians, and Netanyahu and the right wing pro settler parties of Israel. I support these proposals as reasonable ideas, though I do not think the US should pay for it all. We no longer need the oil of the middle east. What we need is to focus ourselves and the world on combatting climate change and the sixth extinction, which are threats to all humans and non humans alike. World popuation grew from 2 to 7.8 billion in the last 90 years. All our foreign aid should be part of a larger war on overpopulation and climate changing pollution from fossil fuels.
“JERUSALEM — Twenty-seven days before the first rocket was fired from Gaza this week, a squad of Israeli police officers entered the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, brushed the Palestinian attendants aside and strode across its vast limestone courtyard. Then they cut the cables to the loudspeakers that broadcast prayers to the faithful from four medieval minarets.
It was the night of April 13, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It was also Memorial Day in Israel, which honors those who died fighting for the country. The Israeli president was delivering a speech at the Western Wall, a sacred Jewish site that lies below the mosque, and Israeli officials were concerned that the prayers would drown it out.
The incident was confirmed by six mosque officials, three of whom witnessed it; the Israeli police declined to comment. In the outside world, it barely registered. . . . “
“As of this writing, terrorists in Gaza — the word “terrorist” fits people who take indiscriminate aim at civilians to achieve political goals — have fired some 1,750 rockets at Israel since Monday.
That’s a number worth pausing over, and not just because it has had the effect of overwhelming Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense. Gaza is often said to be sealed off and utterly destitute. Yet Hamas, which rules Gaza, seems not to have had too much trouble amassing this kind of arsenal, or too many qualms employing it in a way it knew was sure to incur a heavy Israeli response.
The usual rule in life is that if you throw the first punch you can’t complain if you’re counterpunched. The test of Western policy and public opinion is whether they will let Hamas break this rule.
That’s a test the Biden administration has so far passed: Both the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have issued statements stressing that “Israel has a right to defend itself.” Good. It’s more than can be said for progressives such as Bernie Sanders, who blamed “the irresponsible actions of government-allied right-wing extremists in Jerusalem” for the fighting without adding a word of condemnation for Hamas.
The idea is either to keep Israel from returning fire or, if it does, reap the propaganda benefits from televised and tweeted pictures of wrecked buildings and human casualties and “disproportionate” Israeli-Palestinian death counts that obscure the fact that one side is doing what it can to protect civilian lives and the other side is doing what it can to endanger them.
The cynicism is breathtaking. It ought to be widely condemned as a form of terrorism against ordinary Palestinians, whose visible suffering is as central to Hamas’s global purposes as is the suffering of Israeli civilians to its domestic purposes. But if past experience is anything to go by, an errant Israeli mortar or missile will mistakenly hit a civilian target, generating furious claims that Israel has committed war crimes, along with intense diplomatic pressure for Jerusalem to “de-escalate” and seek a cease-fire — at least until the next round of fighting.
In that case, the result would be a political victory for Hamas, achieved not only at a heavy price in Palestinian lives but also at the expense of Palestinian moderates, who’d look like weaklings or fools for opposing the strategy of violent “resistance.” . . . “
Dear Bret, Thiscolumn is brilliant. You completely convinced me that the current form of Hamas leaves no room for peace. I think it was Thomas Friedman who taught me to see that Netanyahu sought and started the war with Hamas, to stop a new more moderate coalition in Israel from coming to power, that included the four Arab members of the Knesset. I would like to see you put forward your ideas for how to make peace. It seems to me that such ideas will make any writer appear stupid. We need both a two state solution, and equal rights for all Palestinians inside of Israel, both built on the grave of Hamas, as it is currently constituted, and many stolen properties, will have to be given back to Palestinians. Ultimately, there will have to be one country, since there is so little land, and it should be called something like, Israel and Palestine, or Palestine and Israel. Both peoples will have to live in peace and share equal rights. Is this totally naive. There are majorities on both sides that want peace instead of war. Neither of these majorities are currently in power.
“Imagine an alternative universe in which an enlightened Israeli government did almost everything progressive America demanded of it.
An immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza. An end to Israeli controls over the movement of goods into the territory. A halt to settlement construction in the West Bank. Renunciation of Israel’s sovereign claims in East Jerusalem. Fast-track negotiations for Palestinian statehood, with the goal of restoring the June 4, 1967, lines as an internationally recognized border.
Oslo would be placing phone calls to Jerusalem and Ramallah in October, to bestow the Nobel Peace Prize on the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Arab states such as Saudi Arabia would establish formal diplomatic relations with Israel. The international community would agree on a multibillion-dollar aid package for the new state of Palestine.
But there would be flies in this ointment. . . . “
David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Your column before this one was brilliant. You completely convinced me that the current form of Hamas leaves no room for peace. You taught me to see that Netanyahu sought and started the war with Hamas, to stop a new more moderate coalition in Israel from coming to power, that included the 4 Arab members of the Knesset. There are many issues with this next essay today. Please read carefully the comment about your wrong assumptions. I will add to that list, your first wrong assumption, when you started, imagine that Israel gave in to all the demands of the progressive Democratics. It is so incorrect to think that all progressives think only one way about most anything. You are an easy target to pick on, if bullying is what people are about. I did notice that inside your foolish assumptons, you still made good arguments in this very essay I am criticizing. Instead of re-editing it, I would like to see you put forward, as others here request, your ideas for how to make peace. It seems to me that such ideas will make any writer appear stupid. We need both a two state solution, and equal rights for all Palestinians inside of Israel, both built on the grave of Hamas, as it is currently constituted, and many stolen properties, will have to be given back to Palestinians.
“There are many ways to understand what is happening today between Hamas and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel, but I prefer to think about it like this: They are each having their own Jan. 6 moment.
Just as a mob was unleashed by President Donald Trump to ransack our Capitol on Jan. 6 in a last-ditch effort to overturn the election results and prevent a healing unifier from becoming president, so Bibi and Hamas each exploited or nurtured their own mobs to prevent an unprecedented national unity government from emerging in Israel — a cabinet that for the first time would have included Israeli Jews and Israeli Arab Muslims together.
Like Trump, both Bibi and Hamas have kept power by inspiring and riding waves of hostility to “the other.” They turn to this tactic anytime they are in political trouble. Indeed, they each have been the other’s most valuable partner in that tactic ever since Netanyahu was first elected prime minister in 1996 — on the back of a wave of Hamas suicide bombings.
No, Hamas and Bibi don’t talk. They don’t need to. They each understand what the other needs to stay in power and consciously or unconsciously behave in ways to ensure that they deliver it.
“Saying Hamas must pay a “very heavy price” for belligerence, Israeli bombs destroyed a 13-story apartment building in Gaza that had a Hamas presence. And saying Israel “ignited fire” and is “responsible for the consequences,” Hamas launched more rockets at Israel.
We’re now seeing the worst fighting in seven years between Israelis and Palestinians, and again a basic pattern asserts itself: When missiles are flying, hard-liners on each side are ascendant. Civilians die, but extremists on one side empower those on the other.
The late Eyad el-Sarraj, a prominent psychiatrist in Gaza, described this dynamic when I visited him during a past cycle of violence: “Extremists need each other, support each other.” He lamented that Israel’s siege of Gaza had turned Palestinian fanatics into popular heroes.
The recent fighting was prompted in part by Israel’s latest land grab in East Jerusalem, part of a pattern of unequal treatment of Palestinians. Two prominent human rights organizations this year issued reports likening Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to apartheid. One group, B’Tselem, described a “regime of Jewish supremacy” and concluded, “This is apartheid.” Human Rights Watch published a 224-page report declaring that Israeli conduct in some areas amounts to “crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.” . . . “